Church Survey--Giving Per Attendee

Nineteen churches responded to my anything but scientific survey. States represented were as follows. Tennessee—9; Texas—4; Arkansas—2; Alabama, Georgia, Virginia, Ohio—1 each. The largest church was 1500 in average attendance, and the smallest was in the 150-200 range. Nine of the 18 churches are in the 400-600 range, three around 200-300, three at 750, and four averaged 1000-1200. All of these congregations were from the Churches of Christ.

The average giving per attendee for all 19 churches was $40.51. One church reported giving of $54 per attendee, two churches were at $53, and two were at $25. Eleven of the 18 churches fell in the $35 to $42 giving range.

The churches were generally affluent, solid middle to upper middle class demographically. Some obviously “had more money” than others. Of the two $25 per attendee churches, one was decidedly more blue collar than the other churches. I am sure if I polled more rural churches the average would have been much lower.

Ten years ago “good giving” was defined as $40 per attendee. For a blue collar/rural church, $40 per attendee would still be excellent. For an upper middle class church, $40 per attendee is not especially noteworthy, in my opinion at least.

I hesitate to make many generalizations about the reasons for the differences from the top to the bottom. A couple of things do come to mind.

  1. Some churches had undergone campaigns over the past few years. Total giving counting campaign receipts would have skewed their numbers upwards.
  2. No two churches are alike. The only difference between Church A and Church B could be one family. Even one “big giver” could bump a $35 per attendee church up to $42.
  3. Giving capacity obviously impacts giving. A church full of teachers and plumbers will not be able to match the giving of a church filled with professionals and business owners. A glance at the parking lot can tell you a lot about what the giving will be.

Only two churches had endowments, and both were tied to specific endeavors. No church was doing anything proactively to pursue estate gifts, although a handful of congregations had received estate gifts in the past. This finding was no surprise.